Giving USA Provides Insight on Strengthening Your Organization’s Messages

The new Giving USA Report, published by the Giving USA foundation and researched and written by Indiana University’s Center on Philanthropy, offers some interesting insights into nonprofit audiences. Focused on trends in giving, this year’s Giving USA reports that Americans gave over $248 billion to charity. Our dollars helped support religious causes, environmental concerns and educational charities.

As it turns out, there are profound regional differences both in how much money people give to charity, and in what kinds of organizations they help support. The report points to some compelling regional variations in audience perspective that serve as valuable guidelines in shaping messages to particular audience segments:

  • Donors in New England give a much higher amount, than the average, to secular causes.
    • Message meaning: Keep content secular. And if your organization is religiously-based, maintain focus on your programs as much as possible (except when reaching audience segments who are religious).
  • Mid-Atlantic donors exceed the U.S. average in participation rates but trail the average in amounts contributed.
    • Message meaning: Since the practice of charitable involvement/giving is well established, you’ll need to focus less on building the case of taking action in general (be it giving, volunteering, advocacy, or….) and more on why to take the action for your organization or in your issue area.
  • Those in the West South Central region (OK, TX, LA, ARK) demonstrate a much lower participation in giving to secular causes, and a much higher rate in giving to those that are religious.
    • Message meaning: If your organization is founded by a religious order or focused on religious issues, play that up. If not, designate this geographic region as a second tier market. If you do reach out, focus on your work, not your organization’s secular perspective.
  • The one constant in charitable giving? Support of local charities. Giving USA’s report estimates that as much as 70% to 80% of all giving is local, which means your organization is a relative shoe-in when you’re reaching local audiences. Surprisingly, large natural disasters–whether the Southeast Asian tsunami or the hurricanes in the southern U.S.–don’t make a huge difference on that figure although the study’s data do not factor in possible donations to Hurricane Katrina victims, for example, because the data was based on numbers from 2002.
    • Message meaning: Play up your organization’s local roots and/or focus when communicating with regional audiences. In doing so, you’ll reinforce the fact of your shared home and be far more likely to motivate them to take the actions you wish.

Take a look at the report yourself to garner more insights into shaping your messages to reflect giving patterns.

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Nancy Schwartz on November 28, 2005 in Branding and Messages, Nonprofit Communications | 0 comments
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